Akinloye Bankole is the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State. In this interview with some journalists, he spoke on the conduct of the 2023 general election in Ogun, especially the controversial gubernatorial poll, accusing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of conniving with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to subvert the will of the people. INIOBONG IWOK brings the excerpts:
There were issues on the governorship election in Ogun State and your party called for its cancellation; what is the situation of things now?
The position of the party remains the same. The issues around the 2023 governorship election in Ogun State is such that there is double standard on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). What should have happened was that the election should have been declared inconclusive on the basis of the provision of the Electoral Law, which states clearly that whenever the margin of lead is lower than the number of cancelled votes, then the election should be declared inconclusive.
This happened in 2018 in Osun State in the context between Governor Ademola Adeleke and former governor Gboyega Oyetola of the state. So, that was where this started from and when it happened, it was a surprise, but it later became a norm, which informed what the INEC used in the governorship elections in Kebbi and Adamawa States in the last election.
So, we wonder why Ogun State should be different. That is the cause of our amazement at the turn of the events after the last governorship election. That was why we had a peaceful protest after the election, which was led by our governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu to the INEC office, where we registered our official dissatisfaction with the conduct of the INEC at the last election. The position of the party remains the same and we have completed arrangements to challenge the result of the election as provided for by our extant laws at the tribunal. We hope Governor Dapo Abiodun and the APC would be able to explain to the entire world the magic that gave birth to the almost 14, 000 margin in the election.
People believe that the Ogun State PDP had been having issues dating back to the 2019 governorship election, when the late Kashamu Buruji and Ladi Adebutu emerged as factional candidates that actually affected the fortune of the party in the state and this still went ahead prior to the 2023 election. Don’t you think the problem of the PDP in the state is the lack of cohesion within the party?
The conversation around possible lack of cohesion in our party in Ogun State has gone home to rest. Party politics is always characterised by ventilation of interests and that was what happened in the PDP, especially during the time of our late leader, Senator Kashamu Buruji. The party was polarized into two main factions, but we thank God that we have passed that stage now and our leader; Kashamu Buruji, paid the supreme price for the party. That signaled a major watershed in the party, particularly in Ogun State. After that, members of his political group have aligned with the mainstream of the party. May I also remind you that about two months to the election, some tendencies also reared their ugly heads to destabilize the fortune of the party and disrupts its wellbeing, but out of our democratically enshrined party structure, we were able to surmount these and the party triumphed over the shenanigans. After that, we had a more stable house, our leader, Segun Showunmi, a veteran and very cerebral fellow. Our leader came to align with the mainstream of the party and we ran the election together and we were able to achieve much.
Let me also remind you that at the last election, the party was able to convincingly win nine state assembly seats in Ogun State and apart from the governorship election, we also hope to reclaim six more assembly seats at the tribunal. The abysmal performance of the party at the presidential and National Assembly elections, where we lost all the seats in the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate was not directly the fault of the party, but that of the INEC as they refused to do what they promised Nigerians to do by using BVAS and ensuring the electronic transmission of results.
The INEC openly did manual collation of results and that was what was responsible for the failure of our candidates at the election. Of course, we are challenging the whole results and I am very sure that you understand all the games the INEC and the presidential candidate of the APC, who is now the declared president-elect, are playing.
Another party has also challenged the result of that election because INEC refused to comply with the provision of the Electoral Law, which ought to guide the conduct of the 2023 presidential election. Certainly INEC goofed and that would be sorted out at the tribunal at the appropriate time, so we are not worried. Currently, the INEC has declared nine seats for the PDP in the Ogun State House of Assembly and we hope to claim six more from the tribunal, when the process starts.
As you are going to the tribunal, will you be calling for the cancellation of the entire results, or will you call for re-run in some selected areas?
That would be determined by the legal team of the party, they are professionals. I am not a lawyer, they know what to ask knowingly full well that the court is not a Father Christmas. Given the facts and figures that are available at the last election, I am sure our legal team knows what to place before the court.
Are you saying that if the election is conducted all over again in a free and fair atmosphere, the PDP would win the governorship election in Ogun State?
The results of the last election from all the polling units in the state went a long way to confirming that the PDP is the party of the people and that it is the only party that is democratic in the state. They have bought into our manifestoes and robust history of performance. When Ogun State was under the PDP in the era of former governor Gbenga Daniel, you could see what he achieved.
Whether anybody likes it or not, we won the last election and the facts are there except for the sudden magic that happened between the APC and the INEC on the early Sunday morning after the election, which they have to explain at the appropriate time. For us, we are confident, we have the support of the people, and we have a great number of the people, so the APC would be defeated by the PDP anytime there is any electoral contest in Ogun State.
Beyond sentiments, are you saying that Governor Dapo Abiodun did not do well in Ogun State in the last four years, let us forget about party politics now?
If Governor Dapo Abiodun performed creditably as Governor there would not be need for him junketing from one place to another in the state looking for figures in the last election during which he lost his ward, his local government, federal constituency and his entire senatorial district to the PDP. That is a state referendum of his performance; we don’t bother ourselves on that.
You can take a cue from what happened in Oyo State, where we have 33 local governments, and Governor Seyi Makinde of the state won clearly in 31 local governments and the candidate of the APC, Senator Teslim Folarin only managed to win two. That clearly made him congratulate Governor Seyi Makinde immediately after the election.
In Ogun State, talk to the retirees, they would tell you Governor Dapo Abiodun scored zero, talk to the civil servants, they would tell you that he scored zero, he scored zero in job creation, conduct of business in the state, and these cannot be shrouded in secrecy.
The government that is being led by Governor Dapo Abiodun has become largely uninspiring to the extent that nothing works in Ogun State. The only thing that goes on in the state is the Governor standing in front of cameramen to take pictures.
People have spoken against it, people have expressed their opinion and popularly, but unfortunately Governor Dapo Abiodun, through the INEC, is trying to subvert it. I tell you that it is an injustice that would not stand and the mandate of the people would be given to them, when the tribunal starts.
Let’s look at the PDP nationally, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, who left your party last year, scored six million in the election, former governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), also left your party last year and he scored one million votes, the G5, led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, also did some damage to the party. In view of these, what future do you see for the party?
This is not enough to consume the PDP as a political party in Nigeria. PDP is the oldest political party in Nigeria as at today, it is the only political party that has retained its name, its colour and full identity in the country. The outcome of the result, which was enabled by the INEC that failed to follow the provisions of the Electoral Law, is not enough to consume the party. All the statistics that you see are just a temporary setback for the party, between now and the next two months, the party would return better and stronger for it.
Like I said, party politics is usually dominated by individual interests, but I tell you, the PDP cannot stop anybody from exercising its personal freedom, which was why those that you mentioned that left the party could not be stopped in any way.
Its just a temporary setback for the party, when the issues are sorted out at the tribunal, the party would come back better, bigger and stronger for it.